Sometimes I wonder where the magic dividing line lies between telling my stories and trespassing on somebody else’s privacy. For instance, my sister climbed a fire tower when we were little. Our family was camping in a remote place where fire towers exist. These are monumental structures where you can climb up thousands of steps above the tree line to make sure there isn’t any smoke in the forest. I’m not really sure why they build these things since I’m pretty sure there’s never been a forest fire east of the Mississippi or north of the Great Lakes, but we have fire towers, and my sister decided to climb one. She climbed it from the outside, which was basically a suicide mission on roughhewn timber scaffolding. So this is Sis’ story, except since Sis was a trendsetter for me, I followed. Then it became my story too.
Sis said once that I’m always the hero in my stories. Well of course! They’re my stories. If she wants to be the heroine, she should write her own stories. Why would I point out stupid stuff I initiated? There’s no glory in telling about the time I convinced my little brother to put a darning needle into the electrical outlet, even though the results did satisfy my scientific curiosity. It just goes to show that I had a sense of self-preservation not shared by at least a couple of my siblings.
For some reason, our parents didn’t approve of our spirit of exploration. I got yelled at for electrocuting my brother, and Dad almost had a heart attack when he saw Sis and I hanging off the fire tower. I suppose it’s kind of amazing he didn’t have a heart attack when he ran up all those thousands of stairs and through the supporting scaffolding to pluck us off the thing.
So is that Sis’ story or mine? At that age I’m not sure I really understood we weren’t two incarnations of the same person, or maybe she was my wicked twin, or possibly the person I wanted to become. My siblings were at least as important to my formation as our parents or anyone else in our lives. I have two older sisters, and both of them provided examples for me to follow with friends, boys, and fire towers. How can I talk about my experiences without crossing that magic line of discussing their lives too?
This subject came up recently when someone (not Sis), called to censor this blog – ironically the “vocal” week when I described how I had been told to be quiet too many times. It isn’t that I’ve said anything untrue, I’m just not supposed to talk about certain things. For instance, saying that my childhood friend was killed or calling my skinny grandma (SG) “evil” is out of bounds. It doesn’t matter that my friend’s murder was in the paper and is common knowledge. Shhh. It doesn’t matter that I disliked SG, my censor liked her and that’s the important thing. Besides, the internet is forever. Time for a refresher course in “Be quiet!”
In some ways, writing takes more courage than climbing a fire tower. I was young and athletic when I climbed the tower, and pretty sure I wasn’t going to die doing it. Writing can open me up to criticism and expose my tender feelings, but as I told my censor, I have a right to my feelings. If it goes down in infinity that I loved Fat Grandma (FG) and disliked SG, why can’t I say so? FG fed me homemade blueberry waffles, and SG tried to make me eat the rabbit that I played with that day. SG put chopped carrots and celery in Jell-o, and FG made cookies. SG hit me, FG hugged me. Really, isn’t it easy to see which side of this I would choose? If it goes into the permanent internet record that SG hit me, is it my fault for writing about it, or hers for doing it in the first place?
Mostly, I like this blog to be a happy place. I can rise above and mostly talk about happy topics. I know people don’t want to be brought down by my ghosts, but sometimes the negative stories are funny, and people like to laugh. I mean really, once you get past the horror of carrots and celery in Jell-o, can’t you laugh about it? Well, even if you can’t, there are always cookies…
Grandma Lee’s Date Roll Cookies
1 cup shortening
2 cups brown sugar
4 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Roll into a rectangle, then spread with this cooked and cooled filling:
7 ounces of chopped dates
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup chopped nuts
Roll into a log, wrap in waxed paper, and chill.Slice into individual cookies and bake 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.